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Old June 16th, 2011, 06:14 AM   #1
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Location: United Kingdom
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Upgrade my macbook?

I currently have a mid 2009 MBP and was wondering how much improvement I would see by upgrading to a new 2011 version.

My current specs are:
Core 2 Duo 2.8ghz
2x Graphics Cards - 9600M GT and 9400M

The 2011 version is:
2.0GHz quad-core
Intel Core i7
4GB 1333MHz
500GB 5400-rpm1
Intel HD Graphics 3000
AMD Radeon HD 6490M with 256MB GDDR5

Another reason is I want to move from my current 17'' to 15'' for more portability.

Andy S
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Old June 16th, 2011, 09:21 AM   #2
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Re: Upgrade my macbook?

Just study all the excellent comparative Mac hardware performance data on the barefeats.com website (I wont link it directly as that may be frowned on - use google to find it). Then make up your own mind if it's worth the cost.

I'd expect it to be much faster - but with one caveat. Beware doing serious HD editing on a MBP with a 5,400 rpm drive. It's possible, but certainly a long way from ideal. It really would be much better to go for 7,200 rpm HDD (and put all your media on an external disc to keep things zipping along, obviously).

My personal feeling is that 15 inch MBP is a MUCH better size than 17 inch for lugging around, That's why I have a 15 inch for the times when I need mobile editing/clip review (albeit mine's a mid-2008 model).
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Last edited by Andy Wilkinson; June 16th, 2011 at 02:45 PM. Reason: Trying to make it readable!
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Old June 26th, 2011, 08:51 AM   #3
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Re: Upgrade my macbook?

FCP 7 is mostly bottlenecked by disk I/O so any replacement MBP should as a minimum have a 7200rpm disk. However you will be amazed at the improvement in performance if you simply upgrade your current MBP with an SSD. Use an Optibay to move the current hard disk to where the DVD drive currently lives & you can combine decent capacity storage without breaking the bank for a 500GB SSD.

If you have the money & are really looking for an excuse to buy the latest MBP then the new model would have stellar performance with an SSD rather than that 5400rpm HDD.

Personally I prefer the 17" MBP for a full 1920x1200 screen although the 15" with the hi res 1680x1050 is a good compromise between slightly better portability (2.54kg vs 2.99kg) & screen resolution.
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Old June 28th, 2011, 11:12 PM   #4
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Re: Upgrade my macbook?

Its a joke Apple even offers a 5400rpm drive in their "pro" line of laptops. 7200 will make a pretty big difference, but most of my stuff is edited on an external disk when I use my laptop. The new i7 is blazingly faster than the dual core (in my experience at least). I would go for at least the i7 with a 7200rpm disk and 8gb of ram... and if you can afford it, the hires antiglare screen is nice.
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Old June 29th, 2011, 01:24 AM   #5
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Re: Upgrade my macbook?

Originally Posted by Nick Weeks View Post
and if you can afford it, the hires antiglare screen is nice.
The option isn't expensive & I would consider it essential . The non-glossy antiglare screen option for the 17" is only an extra 40/$50 while the for the 15" it also ups the resolution from 1440x900 to 1680x1050 & is 140/$150 which for 36% more pixels is a bargain.
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Old July 7th, 2011, 11:39 AM   #6
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Re: Upgrade my macbook?

I just upgraded from a 17" (previous generation to yours - 2.5ghz/4gb ram max) to a 15 quad with the hi-res and an SSD - the performance difference is pretty dramatic! FCP itself doesn't run noticeably different other than better rt performance, but compression tasks are significantly improved when setup right. An hour of 5D footage converted to prores took nearly 3 hours on my old laptop... on the new one, with an 8 instance quickcluster configured in qmaster, compressor does the same thing in 35 minutes.

Frankly if you're talking about the system drive I wouldn't worry about the difference between 5400 and 7200 rpm, the functional difference is minimal for most standard editing situations and you're not going to want to edit off the internal drive anyway. SSD, on the other hand, makes a huge difference overall in things like startup/reboot and app launch times, virtual memory performance, etc. The tradeoff is capacity though, so I'm replacing the DVD drive (which I used maybe 4-5 times last year) with a 750gb drive for project files, photos, music, etc. I still plan to keep most footage on external drives though, just easier overall, but limited to working with fw800 until we get an esata solution for thunderbolt.
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Old July 7th, 2011, 04:10 PM   #7
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Re: Upgrade my macbook?

Just to emphasise how awfully slow the 5400rpm drive option is. I upgraded my 2008 17" 2.6GHz 6GB MBP with a Crucial M300 SSD & it feels faster & more responsive than the current top of the line MBP with a 5400rpm disk.

I hadn't realised quite how much extra performance an SSD delivered until old MBP died on Monday & refused to boot. I took it into the Apple Store & left it with them to repair with a presumed failed mainboard & an estimated repair cost of about 400. On an impulse I paid over 2000 & walked out of the Apple Store with the best configured 17" MBP that they held in stock a 2.3GHz i7 17" MBP with 4GB RAM & a 5400rpm 750GB HDD. I figured that I needed/deserved a new MBP & could keep the old one as a backup. Sadly the performance is really disappointing in comparison to my 3 year old model. Boot time, application startup & any I/O intensive application e.g. running a VMware Fusion virtual machine are all very much slower than my old system. Even just moving between applications was slower.

The really good news though is that yesterday (just two days later) I got my 2008 MBP back fixed with a new mainboard & the repair done free of charge under the Apple Quality Programme which I think means that it had failed with a known manufacturing fault. Whichhas saved me 400+. Fab Apple service as always.

Tomorrow I am going to return the new MBP for a refund as it is such a disappointment & I realise now as I use the two systems side by side that while it is better than my old MBP it's not significantly better for my uses at present. Certainly not worth me spending 2000. The old system even gets a higher score on Xbench because the SSD is so much faster. Its 2.6GHz C2D is no slouch either with a CPU score of 178 on Xbench vs. 238 of the 2.3GHz i7. I realise that the latter has twice as many cores so applications that could use all four of them should see a big improvement but FCP X is slow because of the slow disk & 4GB memory. The Disk Test result was just 53.94 versus 219.28 of the old system with an SSD. Most tellingly is that it feels slower so while there are doubtless CPU intensive operations that will be faster in actual use reading mail, browsing the web, downloading/uploading files etc all that extra CPU power is wasted whereas the bottleneck is disk I/O & insufficient RAM

I was also disappointed with how poor battery life is with the new system. The new improved benchmark that Apple now use involves accessing 25 different websites amongst other things & claims 7 hours battery life. They used to claim 8-10 hours with the unibody MBPs but apparently the new test is a better test of real life performance. Sadly not in my real life as I only got about 4 hours of use on the battery whereas I get 3+ hours with my old pre-unibody MBP.

If the 2011 MBP had lived up to promises e.g. 7 hour battery life I may well have kept it & just used my old system as a backup although I would have needed to upgrade to 8GB RAM & an SSD which would have brought the price up to 2500. I think that I will now wait until 2012 for the next version of the MBP with a more substantial improvement in performance & hopefully better battery life before I replace my current system. When I do order it will be of course be with an SSD & 8GB RAM too (or I will do the upgrade myself if Mr Crucial's prices are still keener).
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Old July 26th, 2011, 06:14 PM   #8
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Re: Upgrade my macbook?

I've been working and making a living with a 2008 MBP and FCP 7. Editing is seamless, but I'll admit rendering and compressing are slow, depending on the codec. Otherwise, I'm very happy.
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